Benita shrank from him visibly, and Mr. Clifford said in an angry voice:
“Don’t talk of those horrors before my daughter. It is bad enough to have to do such things, without speaking about them afterwards.”
“You are right,” he replied reflectively; “and I apologise, though personally I never enjoyed anything so much as shooting those Matabele. Well, they are gone, and there are plenty more outside. Listen! They are singing their evening hymn,” and with his long finger he beat time to the volleying notes of the dreadful Matabele war-chant, which floated up from the plain below. “It sounds quite religious, doesn’t it? only the words—no, I will not translate them. In our circumstances they are too personal.
“Now I have something to say to you. It was unkind of you to run away and leave me like that, not honourable either. Indeed,” he added with a sudden outbreak of the panther ferocity, “had you alone been concerned, Clifford, I tell you frankly that when we met again, I should have shot you. Traitors deserve to be shot, don’t they?”
“Please stop talking to my father like that,” broke in Benita in a stern voice, for her anger had overcome her fear. “Also it is I whom you should blame.”
“It is a pleasure to obey you,” he answered bowing; “I will never mention the subject any more. Nor do I blame you—who could?—not Jacob Meyer. I quite understand that you found it very dull up here, and ladies must be allowed their fancies. Also you have come back; so why talk of the matter? But listen: on one point I have made up my mind; for your own sake you shall not go away any more until we leave this together. When I had finished carrying up the food I made sure of that. If you go to look to-morrow morning you will find that no one can come up that wall—and, what is more, no one can go down it. Moreover, that I may be quite certain, in future I shall sleep near the stair myself.”
Benita and her father stared at each other.
“The Molimo has a right to come,” she said; “it is his sanctuary.”
“Then he must celebrate his worship down below for a little while. The old fool pretends to know everything, but he never guessed what I was going to do. Besides, we don’t want him breaking in upon our privacy, do we? He might see the gold when we find it, and rob us of it afterwards.”
THE FIRST EXPERIMENT
Again Benita and her father stared at each other blankly, almost with despair. They were trapped, cut off from all help; in the power of a man who was going mad. Mr. Clifford said nothing. He was old and growing feeble; for years, although he did not know it, Meyer had dominated him, and never more so than in this hour of stress and bewilderment. Moreover, the man had threatened to murder him, and he was afraid, not so much for himself as for his daughter. If he were to die now, what would happen